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Queries on using Toucam, Craterlets and Registax


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It was my 1st time using the Toucam 840 last night (lunar shots) on an SW102 Startravel on an AZ goto mount - Although the images were the best I've taken to date (the previous all having been afocal), I'm pretty sure I can do a lot better.

attachment.php?attachmentid=34188&stc=1&d=1269342859Firstly, I think I should be able to get 640x480 out of the cam, but for some reason (in Craterlets) the maximum mode it let me have was 320x240(?). Also, in the cold light of day, I think I've probably made some other crass errors as well...

Craterlets:

1. Is 5fps too short really (there was a fair amount of wobble on last night) - I'd assumed that lowest fps would be better, but now I'm not sure... And is there a setting somewhere for shutter speed(?). (Also do I need to worry about CODECS (IYUV) and "video sample size" (12 bit)?)

2. As a rough guidline, what sort of length exposure times should I be looking at for the moon (obviously phase dependent)? I tried 20s (100) and then 60s (300), but I'm beginning to think that was anywhere near enough (but I was actually gobsmacked that it worked at all!)

3. Are there any other "standard" settings (or processing tricks) to use within Craterlets? (Has anyone found a manual anywhere for it?)

4. I was using the craters along the terminator to focus and although I was using an IR block filter, the brighter side of the moon seemed to "fuzz" away seemingly after applying wavelets in registax... (Or is this a focussing issue / stacking setting?)

5. The image contrast is giving me a bit of a problem - Is there any way to deal with this at capture stage or during stacking... or do I try and correct this in photoshop? Seems a bit of a tall task with such burnt out highlights...!

6. I was also surprised that the output image (which I saved as a .tif?) was <500k and the physical full image size was pretty small on the screen. Is this normal? (I guess it is with 320x240 input...)

Registax:

Having actually captured some AVI's, I then entered the dark caverns of Registax5... :). By pressing various buttons, I did work a direct path through which gave me images, but I had very limited idea about what was really going on so simply accepted all the defaults.

Now I have found the manual for this, so I know it's down to me to read it... which I sort of have, but it doesn't really explain the implications of the amendments too well (and what exactly are wavelets?) - I don't suppose there's some kind of idiots guide, is there... Or is this all trial and error until you find something that appears to work?

I did play a little with multi-alignment boxes by putting in a huge total of 3(!), and then played with the default estimate models (which gave a lot more), but again I'm not relly sure what's going on... Is there a rule of thumb on the size of and number of alignment boxes?

I think I'll be mostly okay when I get into Photoshop, but I don't really want to waste too much time on post-processing relatively poor source images...

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That's a very good attempt Andy... some lovely details along the terminator, and the Lunar X is very clear. Looking at the image, it's come out a bit overexposed along the remained of the disk.

I don't know craterlet, but you should be able to get up to 640x480 I'd think, the SPC900 was happy there. As the camera is USB1 you are limited to 5 or 10 fps (possibly 15) or you start to get compression issues in the data stream. You ideally want the highest frame rate you can run at. This will define the longest exposure time you can have, I think I used to run at between 1/33 and 1/50 second for exposure, and keep the gain down as low as you can. It's a fine balance between gain, frame rate and exposure time. It'll probably take some experimenting to work out the ideal settings for your scope and camera combo.

With Regi5, if you have very accurate tracking, and a meaty computer you can have a very large number of align points. What I tend to do, is to click multi point, then in the pop up window, click estimate, and then allow regi to estimate a number of points. If it comes up with a small number, I normally throw in more. What you have done has done a good job on the details though.

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Thanks John - I think you're being a little kind, but thanks for the encouragement (and I didn't know I'd caught the Lunar X... or even that there was one!). I'll have to look into the Toucam Mode further as I'd hope that doubling to 640x480 should make a fairly big difference. I can also see that I got the frame rate totally wrong - As I'd read about compression at higher rates, I erred way too far on the side of caution. As you've suggested, I'll try 10/15fps next time and also play with the exposure times, gain and duration (maybe 5 minutes or so - That should give me enough good frames to play with! However, I really want to see if I can get a more balanced image (maybe when it's more full I'll have more luck, or perhaps reducing the gain will help...)

The tracking / GOTO seems to be pretty good on the SW AZ mount - I left it on M44 for about 30 minutes last night (waiting for my wife to have a quick look, who really isn't that interested but humours me) and it hadn't shifted at all (again, I was gobsmacked!).

I think my laptop'll be okay for now (159Gb free - Hopefully that should last me a couple of nights or so... :)) but it might be a little lacking in memory (2Gb) - I'll see how it goes.

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To be honest.. a more full moon becomes harder, as you lose surface contrast... you want to try and get the terminator, as that's where the most interesting views are. Aim for 10fps, probably 1000 to 2000 frames would be enough. That's what I used to use. I'm sure you'll make swift progress, something to bear in mind... if you're running your lappy on batteries, the screen will appear dark... you need to make the moon seem almost too dark to avoid overexposure, you have to compensate for the auto dimming of the display to save power.

Excellent news on the tracking

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Andy,

although your shot looks a little over exposed, the focus looks good, which is much harder to achieve. It was also my first go with the toucam last night. I did a few AVI's, but spent more time on stills. With a little bit of free stitcher software, which is very easy to use, I was able to produce this final picture :

moon.jpg

This is using 640 x 480 mode, but my toucam is now a SPC900 as I have converted it by downloading replcement firmware. I used Kc3 free software to take the images.

Texy

Edited by Texy
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Thanks again John - Much appreciated... I was viewing from home last night so had mains available, but it's not great as a) the house gets in the way and :mad: I have 4 of those lovely sodium street lights in view (one of which is <30 yds away - NOT ideal). Any thoughts on getting good night vision simply isn't achievable at all... :)

I've identifed a "dark-site" a couple of miles up the road though, so when I've begun to get to grips a little more with Craterlet, I'll be driving over there (I bought a small 17Ah Maplins battery for the job...)

Thanks also for the tip on making the moon as dark as poss to avoid overexposure - I didn't touch the gain last night, which probably explains loads...

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The controls on Craterlet are fairly straight forward. On the right hand side there is a small screen showing the last still image captured, below that two buttons labeled Take Snapshot and View Still. Below them two radio buttons, Capture Snapshots and Capture AVI video. Below the radio buttons are two more buttons, Setup Camera and Mode. If you press the Mode button Craterlet will toggle through all the available video resolutions available for the Toucam. The Setup button takes you to a control panel to adjust the camera exposure settings.

10fps should be more than adequate for imaging. At higher framerates the video stream becomes compressed with a loss of data. 1000 frames will give Registax plenty of data to go at.

Peter

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Texy - That's awesome for a 1st picture - That's exactly the type of image I'm trying to get to...

I had read that it was possible to flash a Toucam to an SPC900 but I'm a bit nervous about flashing firmware as a previous project I was managing saw 4/40 servers go splat... However, I think I'm going to have to do this.

Now that I know that gain and shutter speed can be controlled, hopefully that will get me around the over-exposure problem... and I'll obviously have to have a look at kc3. That stitcher software looks pretty good too - What is it? Cheers...!

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Thanks for the explanation Peter...

I did toggle through the modes for the Toucam, but I'm pretty sure I never saw a 640x480 - Maybe 360x240 is as good as it gets with an un-flashed Toucam... I know what I'll be doing this evening!

However, I obviously missed the setup button - Presumably too keen to hit the "GO" button...! I'll have a more in-depth play tonight (and also check out kc3 whilst I'm about it). Thanks again...

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Texy - That's awesome for a 1st picture - That's exactly the type of image I'm trying to get to...

I had read that it was possible to flash a Toucam to an SPC900 but I'm a bit nervous about flashing firmware as a previous project I was managing saw 4/40 servers go splat... However, I think I'm going to have to do this.

Now that I know that gain and shutter speed can be controlled, hopefully that will get me around the over-exposure problem... and I'll obviously have to have a look at kc3. That stitcher software looks pretty good too - What is it? Cheers...!

I have 'upgraded' and 'downgraded' my toucam over 10 times now because it works fine as either on my XP PC, but I could'nt get it to work as a SPC900 on my vista laptop. I ended up putting a temporary replacement harddrive in my laptop, reloaded vista from scratch and now it works a treat. I,ll check which free sticher software I used when I get home. Shame I missed that little section, but it only took around 10 minutes to capture the 16 images used.

Texy

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Cheers Texy - I'm still on good old XP... but will have to move to W7 shortly. However, as it's got an XP mode, I'm not so fearful!

Shame I missed that little section, but it only took around 10 minutes to capture the 16 images used
... I still think it's awesome for a first go - If my wife had seen that as my first result, it might have helped my business case for getting a nice EQ GOTO mount (and maybe an APO...!)
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Hi Peter - I feel a bit of a prat now...

1. With the excitement of using the camera for the 1st time, I've now gone through the modes... and guess what? 640x480 IS there (DOH!).

2. I also found a check box which, if I uncheck, gives me access to the gain and exposure times! (DOH! DOH!)

(I'll get there eventually!)

Texy - Can I also ask which macro you ran from wcrmac - Optimized raw or non-optimized (assuming yours isn't B&W modded?)... and do you know the difference between them? From what I've read it looks as though you need additional (free) software to get RAW colour to work properly (although for moon shots that's relatively unimportant...)

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Cheers Texy - I downloaded wcrmac this afternoon, but had only done half the job... I've now taken the spc900nc.bin file as well, so hopefully I now also have a RAW Toucam / SPC900 cross (fingers crossed!). Thanks again... (and thanks also for the stitching software lead!)

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